New York State Archives Should Be Caretaker of Vital Records

The following is a letter to the editor in the Times Union by NYG&B President D. Joshua Taylor in response to an article on lengthy delays in retrieving vital records from the New York State Department of Health.

Delays in access to New York state vital records are a grave concern. Of equal concern is the lack of transparency regarding their physical condition and state of preservation. Rather than being siloed and housed by the state Department of Health, these crucial historical documents should be safeguarded by the state organization whose express mission is to preserve, manage and ensure access to the records of New York’s history and people: the New York State Archives.

NYSA and its capable, competent professionals can conserve these records, address any significant preservation issues and make them available for research. We already entrust NYSA with the records and documents that comprise New York’s documentary heritage — vital records should not be the exception.

The millions of birth, marriage and death records overseen by the state health department are essential building blocks for genealogists, historians and anyone else researching their New York history. To ensure their accessibility for people looking for information today and for future generations, it is imperative to give these records the care and preservation that they warrant.

Originally published May 8, 2023